Thoughts on the SA Mayoral Town Hall

I worked in politics for far too long to be swayed by politicians’ stump speeches. Fortunately, last night’s first town hall featuring the three leading mayoral candidates — Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Manuel Medina — facing off in the May election was at least two-thirds free of such soliloquies.

The coming election will be our first in San Antonio, which holds ostensibly nonpartisan municipal elections. I say “ostensibly” because Medina has been quite vocal in proclaiming his status as a Democrat. Mayor Taylor and Councilman Nirenberg both seem to be progressive leaders to me, though they’ve kept with the tradition of nonpartisanship and not advertised their political affiliations.

San Antonio City Councilman and mayoral candidate Ron Nirenberg, 7 FEB 2017.

It was Medina who throughout the town hall — which was held at the Pearl Stable and sponsored by The Rivard Report — spent his time allotted to respond to audience questions repeating his stump speech, lobbing snide remarks at Mayor Taylor, intimating that Broadway should not receive bond money for improvements because it’s the doorway to the wealthy enclave of Alamo Heights (this coming from a guy who lives in the Dominion and is self-funding his campaign) and advocating for a bullet train between Austin and San Antonio. (As one who lived in Austin for many years, I’d suggest Medina check with Austin leaders to see what they say. I haven’t heard them talk all that seriously about one. In fact, I saw little belief in Austin that improving connections with San Antonio was even a priority beyond lip-service.)

Medina took an early swipe at Mayor Taylor when asked in the first question what his response to President Trump’s executive orders and proposed policies would be were he mayor. He argued he would be in Washington, D.C., at that very moment telling Trump what San Antonio needs. That’s great campaign rhetoric but completely implausible. Does he really think Donald Trump is worried about South Texas beyond building the border wall and killing trade?

I don’t mean to only criticize Medina. Taylor and Nirenberg have their issues. Taylor opposed the local nondiscrimination ordinance when she was on city council. Nirenberg has done something wrong — I just can’t think of it right now. (He does seem a little obsessed with a water pipeline.) They all have their faults.

But Mayor Taylor and Councilman Nirenberg speak as leaders while Chair Medina takes the fire-and-brimstone populist approach. In fact, Misty noted that he seemed to take a Trumpian tack. That’s sad to see from a Democratic Party leader.

I find San Antonio to be a very nice city. I think they’ve done a great job at planning and developing and growing with the population. I hope the city continues to be run by people who are good stewards of the city, its resources, its land, its diversity, its history, its culture and its people. I want city staff who not only manage and invest in today but plan and build for the future; because you can’t do the latter without the former.

That said, I want a leader. Not a bomb-thrower.

One of the best things about San Antonio, and one that was proven again last night, is that there appear to be a number — at least two! — of leaders on the bench just waiting for an opportunity to share their expertise, skills, knowledge and abilities in city leadership positions. That can’t be said of all or even many cities.

I won’t vote for Medina, and I’m leaning Taylor over Nirenberg (but it’s damn close). I do have issues with Taylor using the same local firm Trump used for marketing and her vote against the nondiscrimination ordinance, but I also believe her urban planning experience has served the city well. Sometimes cities need managers and sometimes they need visionaries. Whichever one considers Mayor Taylor to be, I think (so far in my limited time watching city politics) she’s served San Antonio well thus far.

My vote is still open to persuasion, however.

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